The Complete Guide to Calligraphy

As an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

If you went to school or worked in the pre-2010 era, chances are that a large portion of your work was done using the traditional method of pen on paper. The speed at which computers have developed and become accessible (even essential) in our lives has also meant that writing has gradually declined. 

This dependence and heavy usage of technology have however led to a greater appreciation for simple techniques that require less stimulation and with it, calligraphy has become a more popular hobby for those who look to take short breaks from technology and blue light. 

If you are looking for a hobby that allows for patience, a steady progression of skill, and a satisfying end product, calligraphy might just be the perfect option that you’ve never before considered.

What Is Calligraphy?

Calligraphy can be translated from Greek to mean “beautiful writing” and that is precisely what it is. Calligraphy is the art form of creating aesthetically pleasing letters that are elegant, eye-catching, and artistic in their design. 

To get a good idea of what can be achieved through the mastery of calligraphy, simply go to Microsoft Word or Google Docs and browse through the available fonts. This wide range of fonts is something you can aspire towards with calligraphy as the options that you can learn are close to endless. 

There are of course some fundamental or foundational fonts that you need to learn initially but as you progress your ability to handle a pen, you can soon become increasingly more creative and develop your own style. 

Calligraphy is a bit of an underrated skill and hobby but a fair comparison to make would be learning the piano. At first, you cover the basics and learn the fundamental skills but once you become experienced and competent you then have the freedom and skill to experiment and create wonderful music of your own. 

It’s not a direct comparison but we like to think of calligraphy as the visual alternative. If you don’t resonate with drawing or painting, then calligraphy could be the creative outlet that you’ve long been looking for and it can be incredibly rewarding once you are able to flick letters on a page that are both artistic and distinctive. 

Who Is Calligraphy Best Suited To?

The art of calligraphy is a skill (and art form) that needs to be developed and honed over countless hours of practice, therefore, while everyone is free to take up calligraphy you will need certain mental characteristics to enjoy it and eventually become highly skilled. 

As mentioned, patience is an absolute necessity. Calligraphy is a skill and skills are honed through hundreds/thousands of hours of practice, you can’t pick up a pen and expect to create flowing and artistic words on a page without first putting in the necessary practice time. 

Alongside patience, you also need to be someone that seeks long term satisfaction rather than immediate gratification. Your initial efforts will likely be nothing to write home about (excuse the pun) and therefore you need to have the kind of mindset that wants to work towards a long-term goal rather than a short-term endorphin hit. 

Attention to detail is also a key requirement. To create exceptional pieces, whereby the letters flow into one complete page, requires focus and attention to detail. You are not under any pressure when writing and calligraphy is a leisure activity but in order to create meaningful work, you will need to focus and zone in fully on the task at hand.  

While these are some of the mental characteristics that you will need to enjoy and excel at calligraphy, they are not a requirement and are also not a barrier to getting started. 

As long as you learned to write from a young age (or later in life depending on your circumstances), then you already have the basic, foundational skills to get started in calligraphy. Writing is the prerequisite but from there, you are free to create and express your own individuality. 

Complete Guide to Calligraphy

What Do You Need to Get Started in Calligraphy?

To get started with calligraphy all you need is a pen and paper. Yes, you read that correctly, calligraphy is a hobby that can be started with the most basic of equipment. There are no specialist tools, courses, or entry requirements and that is the beauty of this hobby. 

It’s not expensive to get started and as your skills improve, so can the range of products you use and additional teachings and research material that you can take advantage of. Below we cover some of the basics that you need to get started. 

** We said all you need is a pen and paper but a regular biro pen and an A6 notepad isn’t ideal, there are still some basic requirements when it comes to getting started in calligraphy. 

Pens

The writing implement is of course the most essential item that is required for calligraphy. The easiest thing you can do as a beginner is to buy a ready-made calligraphy pen set. These will have all the tools you need to get started as the pens used for calligraphy are far from basic. 

For most calligraphy pens you will need a nib (this can be pointed or flat) which will produce specific strokes. A flat nib is more restrictive in the styles you can use but is easier to learn and this is known as broad-edged calligraphy

A pointed nib allows for more variation in angles and techniques that you can use but is much more difficult to master, this is known as pointed pen calligraphy.

Next, you will need a holder for the nib which can be straight or oblique holders. These will allow the use of different nibs to create different writing styles and techniques. Finally, you will need ink for your dip nibs. 

You can also use fountain pens or pencils for calligraphy, but a calligraphy starter set would be our recommendation for getting started as easily as possible. 

Paper

The second most important item required for calligraphy is the paper. Fortunately, you do not need fancy scrolls or specialty paper to get started with calligraphy and in fact, we’d advise against looking into specialty paper initially as it will soon make for a more expensive hobby. 

Plain white A4 printing paper is the only requirement that you need in modern calligraphy. This paper is readily available to order in bulk and is not something that is in short supply. The reason this paper is preferred is that the ink will not bleed into the paper causing smudges and inaccurate work.  

Lined paper is not used as despite popular opinion, the lines will distract from where your focus should be. Lined paper forces you to focus on writing on the lines, plain paper keeps your focus on the letters which is exactly where the focus should be.  

Practice Sheets

Practice sheets are not an essential item, but we’d recommend putting them on your equipment list for a beginner. Practice sheets can vary in style but the main purpose of them is to help you work on specific techniques. 

This can be writing at different angles, tracing the alphabet to see how each letter should flow and join, or even just practicing different strokes to develop new techniques. There are printable options available online or you can also order them separately. 

Calligraphy Books

Calligraphy books are not essential, and you can certainly find good information online for getting started in calligraphy as well as some tutorials and worksheets. Books can, however, be very beneficial for this hobby for two reasons. 

Firstly, they allow you to research the different styles and types of calligraphy in order to learn new techniques and experiment. Self-critique is an important part of calligraphy, but additional resources can only help expand your knowledge base and also your perception of what is possible with a pen. 

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they offer a guide and direction to support your progression with calligraphy. Practice sheets are good but if you are new to calligraphy then you will need some guidance on the best way to develop your skills. 

There are free resources online that you can utilize for guidance and development, but books are specially designed to take you from a complete beginner to someone that is competent when it comes to handwriting. Once you reach this point, you can then look to utilize your own creativity and produce your own writing styles. 

Complete Guide to Calligraphy as a Hobby

Expert Courses

While calligraphy is something you can learn in your own time by judging and critiquing your own work and writing style, that’s not to say you shouldn’t still seek the teachings from masters in this field. 

There are world-class calligraphers and masters of the craft that have skills, techniques, and insights that you can apply in order to rapidly improve your current skill set. We’ve said that you need patience and practice in order to improve at calligraphy, but we didn’t say that you can’t accelerate your learning. 

Specialist classes, courses, and teachings will give you different insights into the art of calligraphy, and by embracing the knowledge already out there, you should be able to compound this knowledge and improve your own skill set in a shorter space of time. 

While you certainly don’t need to take any courses or classes to get started with calligraphy as a hobby, it will be a good idea to embrace the prospect and look into ways to further your skills beyond self-critique. 

One well-known course provider in this space can be found at 

Quill London is one of the founders of modern Western calligraphy and they are an excellent resource for beginners or experienced individuals alike. 

How to Get Started with Calligraphy

To get started with calligraphy you first need to be able to write. This sounds quite basic and condescending but it’s similar to needing to learn to walk before you can run. Once you know how to write and also have a desire to “write better”, then you are ready to get started with calligraphy. 

All you really need to get started is your fountain pen (or dip nib pen of your choice), some ink, and some A4 printing paper. This really is all you need, we are not trying to oversell it, but these few products are all you need to let your creativity flourish.  

To get started, we’d first recommend looking into the core alphabets that are used as the basics for learning different techniques. These alphabets are:

  • Italic hand
  • Blackletter
  • Foundational Hand
  • Uncial

Each alphabet has its own history, and we’d recommend looking into each in more detail for general interest and to get a deeper understanding of how letters have evolved through the generations. 

Learning the alphabet is not the requirement though, instead, you get started in calligraphy by learning to draw the different letters of each alphabet. Different strokes and techniques are used, and these will build your foundational skills from which you can then experiment with and make your own in the future. 

Alongside this step, you will also want to make use of some practice sheets, printables, and some entry-level calligraphy books. These will all give you the guidance needed for starting out in calligraphy, learning the different styles and techniques, and then gradually progressing until you are at a level where you can use your own creative influence. 

The self-critique and experimentation should only come once you have spent some time as a true beginner learning to master the basics of handwriting and calligraphy. 

How Much Time Will You Need for Calligraphy?

Calligraphy is something that you can pick up at any time and in any location. As the equipment needs are so minimal, this is a hobby that is not time restrictive or resource-draining. You can also commit as much or as little time as you want to the art of calligraphy. 

The more time you can commit, the faster your skills will progress, and ultimately, the better work you will be able to produce. You can, however, also take it slowly and commit just 10-15 minutes per day for a mental break if this is all the time you have free. 

Calligraphy is a hobby that allows complete freedom, you can set a time each day (or on whatever schedule works best for you) and simply practice. Few hobbies offer this sort of time freedom and the only restriction is the amount of time that you want to commit to it. 

Organizations and Resources

While we’ve covered everything you need to get started above, there are a few resources that we’d also recommend looking into if you are interested in taking up calligraphy as a new hobby. 

Association for the Calligraphic Arts

The Society of Scribes & Illuminators


Final Thoughts

If it’s been a long time since you felt the need to put pen to paper in order to make notes, do some work or even write a list then you may have been surprised to find that people choose to do this as a leisure activity in order to appease their creative side. 

Doing a to-do list on your phone is now fast and efficient but calligraphy is not something that is done for practicality or productivity.

Calligraphy is a hobby for those who can appreciate the art form that comes from the written language and the opportunity to express themselves creatively through this medium.


magnifier